Small lifestyle changes that can make us healthier and happier. Picture: Pexels
Are our lifestyles killing us? According to Stats SA’s most recent report on mortality and causes of death, they may just be, with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stress-related ailments among the leading killers of South Africans.

This is borne out by the Global Wellness Index, published earlier this year by investment firm LetterOne, which placed South Africa last out of 151 nations evaluated, below the likes of Ukraine, Egypt and Iraq. As a country, we scored especially poorly on obesity, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, diabetes, activity levels and happiness measures.

The Stats SA’s report says that in South Africa, 46% of women and 44% of men older than 15 have hypertension, or high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and death. Like diabetes, hypertension is caused or exacerbated by poor diet, lack of exercise, and excessive alcohol consumption.

The good news is that it’s fairly easy to make small lifestyle changes that can make us healthier and happier, says Jessica Beattie, brand manager and Strategist at FMI.

These changes can help avoid stress-related diseases and burn-out, which has just been recognised as a medical condition by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is widely used as a benchmark for diagnosis and health insurers.

3 tips to make SA happier and avoid burn-out from Beattie :

Relax: We’re so busy trying to get ahead that we forget to rest. This causes stress, which in turn causes health problems like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression and obesity. Regular exercise is a great natural stress reliever, but even taking 10 minutes doing something you love - listening to music, reading a good book, or relaxing with family, friends and pets – helps beat the pace of everyday life.

Sleep: Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a night to function properly. Any less than that, and you’re not only going to be slower at work, but you’re raising your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Try getting to bed even 15 minutes earlier a night – and stick to a regular sleep pattern, even over weekends.
 
Diet: Here again, small changes make a big difference: replace one sugary a drink a day with a glass of water, and try replacing a packet of chips with a handful of nuts or an apple. Sneak a few extra veggies into your diet, like some red pepper on your sandwich and some spinach in your stew, and you’re making a good start.